The Righteous Babes (Dir: Pratibha Parma, 1998)

Country of Origin:
Running Time: 50 min

Color Video
Distributed by Women Make Movies

Skin and Sinead O'Connor in Pratibha Parmar's 'The Righteous Babes'

The Righteous Babes is a documentary by director Pratibha Parmar, which explores feminism in music, particularly in the 1990s. The name was taken from folksinger Ani DiFranco’s record label, ‘Righteous Babe Records’, which focuses on releasing albums for non-mainstream musicians. The documentary consists of musical footage with interviews of leading female vocal artists – Sinead O’Connor, Skin (Skunk Anansie), Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), Tori Amos, and Ani DiFranco – their fans, and feminists Andrea Dworkin, Camille Paglia, and Gloria Steinem.
Parmar portrays women in rock as a new type of feminist, showing the growth of this new form, from women such as Madonna using their sexuality to close the gap between feminism and music, to others like Chrissie Hynde, managing a band of men, to those addressing domestic abuse, like Tori Amos. The documentary also explores the exploitation of female artists by record labels, looking at examples from O’Conner and Madonna.
Parmar and those interviewed also criticize the more commercialized, or what O’Conner terms “bumper sticker”, version of feminism, with the Spice Girls, and also outside of music, Bridget Jones and Ally McBeal. “Feminism is a good word with a bad press. It is time for it to be used again with pride,” the voiceover says, addressing and educating young viewers learning about feminism mostly through mainstream media. While questioning these ditsier girl models and more generally new feminist role models, Parmar also asks, what exactly is feminism?
Parma is an Indian British filmmaker known for her documentaries on South Asian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual people (LGBT), and her debut feature film Nina’s Heavenly Delights. She has also made music videos for Tori Amos, featured in this documentary, as well as for other musicians, Morcheeba, Ghostlands and Midge Ure.

Women Make Movies entry for Righteous Babes:
A site focusing on female musicians, particularly in Rock:
Ani Difranco’s Righteous Babe Records site:
Wikipedia entry on third-wave feminism: